11th May 2023
Have you heard of these 6 new shades of greenwashing?
As a sustainable business owner, you know how important it is to communicate your sustainability efforts to your customers. But you need to make sure that any values you share can be verified to avoid greenwashing; making false or misleading claims about the environmental impact of your product or service.
Greenwashing is not only unethical but also risky. It can damage your reputation, erode your trust, and expose you to legal consequences.
Greenwashing is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since the 1960s when some companies started to use environmental slogans and images to appeal to consumers who were becoming more aware of environmental issues. However, as consumers became more savvy and skeptical, greenwashing had to adapt and change its tactics. Today, greenwashing is more subtle and complex than ever before. It’s like a hydra: a mythical creature with many heads that grows two more when one is cut off.
Greencrowding is the belief that you can hide in a crowd to avoid discovery; it relies on safety in numbers. If sustainable policies are being developed, the group will likely move at the speed of the slowest.
Greencrowding can be adopted by different groups including governments and environmental alliances. It is a clever strategy as investors and the media are naturally attracted to the large numbers often associated with these groups. An example is the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW). In its first 3 years of operations, it recycled less than 0.0004% of global plastic generated.
This is when companies highlight a particularly green feature to draw attention away from environmentally damaging activities being conducted elsewhere. This is common in the fast fashion industry where brands will often highlight using recycled materials in their clothing but will adhere to a disposable approach where clothing is cheaply made and tends to fall apart quickly.
This is when companies imply that the consumer is at fault and try to shift blame onto them while continuing to engage in climate-damaging activities. Shell’s ‘What are you willing to change’ and BP’s ‘Know your footprint’ campaigns are key examples. This is one of the easiest greenwashing tactics to spot and both campaigns mentioned above received backlash.
Greenlabelling is when words such as ‘green’, ‘eco’, and ‘natural’ are used without any evidence to support their claims.
Greenlabelling appears to be the most pervasive form of greenwashing. It can be difficult to make sense of the many environmental labels and initiatives out there.
When companies change or shift their sustainability targets before they achieve them, this is known as Greenrinsing. They may announce a new ambitious goal to reduce its carbon footprint, but then quietly abandon or replace it with a less challenging one. Coca-Cola has repeatedly moved and missed its recycling targets.
This is when companies underreport or hide their sustainability credentials to evade scrutiny. Being vague can allow them to appear greener than they are, without taking any meaningful action.
By following these tips, you can avoid greenwashing yourself and create a genuine and compelling green marketing strategy that reflects your values and resonates with your customers.
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